What Does “Hell” Really Mean?

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On May 1, Master Books will release a new book entitled Already Compromised. This book reveals the results of research into what Christian colleges are really teaching students in regards to the Bible, inerrancy, inspiration, infallibility, and much more. I will be writing articles about all this in the future.

One of the themes of the book is to warn people that when Christian academics use terms like “literal,” “take as written,” “inerrancy,” “infallibility,” etc., what they mean by those words is not necessarily what the person hearing those words means by them. This seems to be a “virus” that is invading our Christian world these days. Another example of words not meaning what we may think they mean, or have always thought they meant, can be seen in this article from the Baptist Press website. It is an article about a book by a well known pastor in the “emergent church.”

The article begins with the following:

Few events in recent memory have caused as much controversy and confusion among evangelicals as the latest book by well-known pastor Rob Bell, who in Love Wins denies hell and affirms universalism—all the while claiming he has done neither.

Bell—a key figure in the emerging church movement—often has flirted with controversy, such as the time in 2007 when he was asked about homosexuality and danced around the issue, refusing to take a historical biblical stand. Nothing that Bell has written or said, though, has been as controversial as Love Wins. . . Bell's former publisher, Zondervan, apparently refused to publish Love Wins, which is subtitled, “A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person who Ever Lived.”

The article also states the following:
Most evangelical leaders, though, say the exclusivity of the Gospel and a literal heaven and hell are at the heart of Christianity. Yet in Love Wins, Bell redefines all three. He says the Gospel is exclusive—but also inclusive in that people worldwide will be saved even if they have not professed Christ. He affirms heaven—but says that Scripture sometimes defines it as the present day. He says he believes in hell—but then says it's not a literal place but simply a synonym for suffering in the modern world.

In recent days, Bell has denied he is a universalist, but his book says otherwise. Technically, Bell may be more rightly defined as an "inclusivist," which is a cousin of universalism and teaches that people who don't even know Christ—including Muslims and Hindus—will nevertheless, unconsciously, be saved through Christ. But on other pages of his book, Bell seems to make clear universalistic arguments.

The emergent church is a very serious problem in the Christian world today. I encourage you to read the rest of the article.

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